Many of you might remember that week’s leading up to our family’s Spring Break trip to Ohio, I was getting the kids ready for flying. I wanted to do whatever I could to get them ready. I posted on my Facebook page for tips and followed each tip, except for the alcohol tip, but that was ready to go just in case.
On travel day, we were still a little nervous about their ears and the pressure that flying has on them. Even that morning, my wife, was a little nervous about flying herself. But, after getting everyone up and ready, we were certain we could do it.
Parking at the Fast, Park & Relax and taking the bus to the airport was a ton of fun. We even drove past the Airport Park that I take the girls to and as we did my 3-year-old let everyone in the bus know by saying, “Good-bye airport park!” She was so excited to be on a plane.
That was the easiest part of our travel.
After checking in, my wife almost didn’t get her boarding pass. They saw that I had mine and assumed that she had hers. She had to go back to get it.
The flight went smooth… on take-off. On our landing, my wife’s ears began to hurt and feel like they were going to rupture. This has happened to her before and she vowed to never let it happen again.
So, we got off the flight and instead of getting ready for the next flight, decided to rent a car to drive it in. First, we needed to try to get our bags, even though we were told we probably would need to just get them in Columbus. Yep, they were right, they would meet us there in Columbus.
Then, we waited for the car rental company car to pick us up. They told us that there weren’t any cars available. My wife had to show them that she could reserve one online, so there should be some available.
The rental car we got was average, only problem was its inability to charge a phone quickly. We entered in directions to Columbus airport and got onto the Pennsylvania turnpike.
In my opinion, this turnpike is terrible for many reasons. The 1st being that it cost us $36. Also, each travel stop is exactly the same and they aren’t equal distance away from each other, instead they are a random distance from each other. Finally, once you get off the turnpike, for a decent lunch, it takes you at least 30 minutes roundtrip to get back onto the turnpike.
Quick recommendation though. If you do get stuck on the turnpike and have to eat lunch. Riverhouse Bar & Grill in Middletown, PA, was excellent riverhouseonline.net.
Last piece of news was that when you miss Part of a flight, they Cancel your whole flight. Unless you tell them otherwise, then you Might be able to stop them from canceling it. After numerous attempts to call and waiting for at least an hour on the phone, they told us that since we used points to book our flight, they wouldn’t cancel our return trip for us.
Needless to say, we were happy to get to Columbus. Nothing like flying for 2 hours and then having to drive another 10 to get somewhere you could have driven to faster. Good news, finally, was that my kids were troopers the whole time. So much so, that we’ve decided to always drive to Ohio now when we visit, since we know that we can do it.
Point being. I’m a travel agent, but that day would have been a travel agent’s nightmare. I could have used someone like myself to call if I would have had someone like that available.
So, I’ve been a travel agent part-time now for about a year, while I stay home. In that period of time, I have learned that even if I decide that I don’t want to be a travel agent anymore, I will always use a travel agent to book my travel. Now that I know why, I figured I would let everyone else know why they may want to think about reaching out to a travel agent before they plan their travel themselves.
Hopefully, at the end of this article, you may rethink your thoughts about using a travel agent. If not, that’s cool too. But, remember you can always plan your trip yourself, even if you use a travel agent to book. In fact, most travel agents wouldn’t mind that at all.
1. Its Free: If you are booking through a Company, it doesn’t cost you anything to use a travel agent, because they get paid by that Company. We work with Any and All Companies, so if the trip is Commissionable, you don’t pay anything to use our services.
2. Time: It takes a lot of time to find the perfect trip. It even takes us a lot of time. But, we are getting paid to find you your perfect trip based on what you are looking for. Plus, if there is an 800 number for you to call, we either have that same number or we have a direct line to solving your problem faster. We can do this before, during and after your vacation.
3. Money: I can probably price beat the best price that you can find. Ask. If I can’t, I still highly encourage you to book your trip through us because then we are responsible for your vacation.
4. Knowledge: We can recommend things to do in the location that you are going. If I don’t know initially, I will find out from people who have been there or other travel agents who are experts at that location. If I tell you that I can help book, plan and handle any stresses of your trip, I better be able to find the answers you are looking for. Which I am.
5. Help a Friend/Family Member or Acquaintance Out: If time, money and/or knowledge isn’t convincing you to use a travel agent the next time you travel. Do it to help your friend/family member or acquaintance out. This is what they are doing for their hobby/part-time or full-time job. They don’t make money unless you use them for your trip.
6. Social: I am a travel agent. But, if I wasn’t a travel agent I would use as travel agent for Social reasons as well. If I am the planner of the family, but I am planning our vacation with someone else, I will hopefully be really excited to work with them to plan my vacation and to show my pictures to them before, during and/or after the trip. Now, I know this is a strange reason to use a travel agent, however it would probably convince me to do so. I love bragging to people about my most recent vacation and as your travel agent I care how it went. I have to. But, I do care, seriously ;).
Still not convinced. Okay. Thanks for reading. I’ll try to come up with more reasons that I can blog about later to hopefully convince you next time. For now, I think 6 reasons is enough. I don’t really want you to lose interest in this… still there… article. :)
Several years ago we traveled to Europe with our children and found out that they were outstanding travelers. We were eager to do it again, and we were looking for an “adventure”. Dad (me) is an experienced business traveler, but I have never traveled to Eastern Europe. We decided our next adventure would be Budapest, Vienna, and Prague as our travel itinerary. Our first stop, and the one we knew the least about, was Budapest. We had no idea what to expect from Budapest. We were blown away by this city!
Budapest is a beautiful city. The airport is fairly small, which means getting through immigration was a breeze. We were able to find a hotel that had a suite for four people, in two separate sleeping rooms. This was ideal for traveling with our teenage children. Breakfast was included, and the large breakfast buffet was popular with everyone in our party. Being able to get a good breakfast made a day of walking much easier.
Travel throughout the city was easy, and accomplished using a multi-day pass for the public transportation system. This can be purchased right at the airport before you leave at an office of the Budapest public transportation system. Of course, we failed to do this. Passes can also be purchased at staffed or automated kiosks near each subway station. With tickets in hand, we could now travel by subway, tram, or bus anywhere in Budapest with no additional charge as many times as we wanted.
The lights in Budapest at night is not a sight to be missed. Although pretty in the daytime, it was only when the sun went down that Budapest really opened up. Every single building seems to be lit up. We took a Danube river cruise at night to get great views of the city. The city does not stop when the sun goes down.
Now, where do you go in Budapest? There were so many interesting places. We went to Buda Castle, Hero’s Square, Matthias Church, Vajdahunyad Castle, the Hospital in the Rock, Memento Park, the Hungarian National Museum, a Danube River Cruise, and many outstanding restaurants. Since we were fortunate enough to be here at Christmas time, we also spent a significant amount of time in several Christmas Markets. Our children enjoyed trying the various forms of Hungarian street and comfort food. My wife and I enjoyed the mulled wine!
The people of Budapest are very, very friendly. I don’t just mean they were friendly to us individually (they were), they were also kind and polite in general. The subway was calm and orderly. The trams, even when crowded, were never pushy or fast paced. If the language intimidates you, do not worry. Most people either spoke English or spoke enough to get you pointed in the right direction. I’ve traveled many places, and was very impressed with the welcoming nature of the Hungarian people. I do not think you need to be an experienced traveler to enjoy Budapest.
The next stops on our trip are Vienna and Prague, which I will write about in separate blog posts. Budapest, the city we knew the least about before coming on the trip and perhaps held a small thought of assuming it would be the 3rd best city on a 3 city trip, has set a very high bar indeed. A common question we get asked is “Which city was your favorite”. That is a very hard question to answer, as we enjoyed all three. However, if forced to answer, for most of our family the answer is Budapest.
Matt Appler- is a husband and father who loves going on adventures with his family.
I love planning travel. I plan all of our family’s trips. Even if it’s just to the beach or the mountains. I create a very flexible itinerary. I’ve done it for trips with the in-laws and for trips with friends. Every time I have created an itinerary for our trips, I’ve enjoyed the attractions that we’ve seen; the restaurants we’ve eaten at; the coffee shops and bakeries that you can’t miss and the beer that we’ve drank.
Why do I do it? I enjoy it and I have a serious case of FOMO (“Fear of Missing Out”). Since I want to travel somewhere and feel like I’ve experienced everything, my wife knows that I won’t leave anything out.
I also love learning new things about where we are traveling. Things that I used to forget. For example, before I became a travel agent I had a coffee at this ridiculous coffee shop near Bryce Canyon, and now can’t figure out where it is located or what it was called. Bummer. Especially since we want to take our kids to “Utah Rocks,” one day.
Anyway, because I have made itineraries for our trips, I also have recommendations to those places since they are kind of one in the same. Create an itinerary for a trip and actually enjoy where you went or what you did or even have tips on how to make the next trip for someone else or for yourself better, well, I’ve learned to write that down and share it with others.
Want an example? Here is an example itinerary to the Boone/Blowing Rock area: Example Itinerary and here is a list of Recommendations to the same location: Example Recommendations. For an itinerary somewhere, I am going to charge approximately $25 per day (not days traveling), but I would still need to quote out a price before beginning. For a list of recommendations somewhere, I would only charge $25. Either way, for a minimal price you would get information about recommended attractions, breweries, coffee shops/bakeries or ice cream shops, night out options and restaurants; including websites, addresses, phone numbers, hours, cost and any other pertinent helpful notes to make your trip even better.
Check it out for yourself: http://www.fostertravels.com/personal-assistant.html
My 15-month and I stopped by the chiropractor today and I was wearing an “Utah Rocks” t-shirt. He took a look at the shirt and asked me which of the 5 were my favorite. So, I preceded to let him know my Top 5 in order: 1. Bryce Canyon National Park, 2. Arches National Park, 3. Capital Reef National Park, 4. Zion National Park and finally 5. Canyonlands National Park. This may surprise you as Zion National Park is typically rated higher. I have nothing against Zion National Park, I just think that the other 3 were so spectacular to me that as famous as Zion National Park is that the other 3 were just more amazing to me.
My favorite: Bryce Canyon National Park. This National Park was so amazing that if we had a boy instead of girls, we strongly considered naming him Bryce. This place has got it all, the perfect amount of hiking with a variety of rock formations. The Hoodoos were so unusual and the overlooks were breathtaking. To cap it off, we enjoyed a coffee at a coffee shop that was literally on the way to the next National Park.
The phenomenal thing about Arches National Park was how the arches were made. We went to Arches on the last day of our trip and after convincing Audrey to hike to the main arch, I can tell you I am glad I was able to convince her. It is much bigger than it appears and as you walk near it you get to witness how large of an arch it is.
Capital Reef National Park was surprisingly good, but you have to do your homework. I read up on all of the trails and thought that the variety at Capital Reef was outstanding. So, were the different shade of color all of the rocks had. Finally, we went on a sunset hike that didn’t disappoint.
Zion National Park was great, especially Angel’s Landing. It was scary to hear how some people had died on that hike. Secretly, it did make it a little more of a feat knowing that both my wife and I made it through alive. The views at the top were remarkable. Even though Angel’s Landing didn’t disappoint, I wasn’t terribly impressed by the rest of the National Park.
I got some of my best pictures during the vacation at Canyonlands National Park. However, was disappointed by all of the driving. Also, I like to be hiking within all of the rock formations and to see the amazing rock formations at Canyonlands National Park you have to be walking above them.
All in all, this vacation is still my favorite. My shirt says: “Carving, sliding, layering, depositing, faulting, eroding, freezing, flowing, lifting, petrifying, folding and collapsing. The Geologic Story of Utah.” I highly recommend going to all 5 National Parks. Don’t believe me when I tell you how much I like it, just go to my facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/fostertravels/ or my website: http://www.fostertravels.com/ to see for yourself.
This past Sunday my wife and I were out and about running errands and one of our errands was to buy a new car seat for my daughter.
She’s 15-months-old and sits up in her current car seat, which is a booster car seat. We believe that she is ready to face forward and so thought that we should swing by a local baby store to pick up a new car seat. Picking out my 3-year-old’s current car seat was actually relatively easy, so picking out a car seat for a 15-month-old should be a breeze… right?
We thought for sure that we were going to buy her a new booster seat. Looking at the booster seats in stock, the first thing that we looked for that it needed to have 2 cup holders. We let the girls drink both milk and water in the car in their “no spill” sippy cups. Say what you will, we chose the ease of letting them have these cups in the car and dealing with any consequences later.
We found the one that we wanted. It was the Platinum Evolve 3 in 1 Combination Booster Seat.
This seat was perfect for our daughter, because she runs host and it has TempRight Fabric that is designed to keep the child cool and comfortable while traveling. Looking around the selection above, we notice that it’s not in stock. A clerk checks and tells us it’s in stock in another store, that’s 30 minutes away. We can purchase it on Amazon, but it will take 1-2 months for delivery.
Hmm… While we are processing this news, the car seat expert in the store finally arrives to help. He tells my wife, while I’m letting my restless 15-month-old practice walking, that a convertible car seat may be the way to go instead especially if your child will nap in the car, which makes sense. Our first daughter was a non-napper, early. Can’t remember for sure, but I believe she gave up napping by the age of 15-months. Our second daughter is still napping strong, somewhere between 2-4 hours a day.
She’s also a good traveler, which wasn’t our first daughter’s best trait. So, we are excited to start taking trips together as a family. Hence, I became a travel agent :). Problem was that it was lunch time and are girls were breaking down, so we figured we would think about it and come back to it later that day.
After we put the girl’s down, I jumped online to see what the best convertible car seat was that also was great for babies that run hot. Not even 5 minutes later we landed on the Maxi-Cosi Pria 70 Convertible Car Seat. It has 630 reviews on Amazon with 4.5 Stars, is easy to clean and has self-wicking fabric that deodorizes and draws liquids away from the skin to help keep your child dry and comfortable. Only 1 cup holder, though ;). It's crazy how your experience with both kids can be so different.
Working as a travel agent has done nothing but excite me about what are travel schedule looks like in the next… 20 years or so! So, one day I wrote down a Very Rough Draft of where I want to go with my family each year, for the next 20 years. It’s important to plan, though I am well aware plans change.
Not sure how many vacations your family is planning on taking. However, I think it’s reasonable for our family to take 1 Big vacation every year.
Here is the list. I will explain some of my thoughts below it. Please comment any other suggestions or any feedback regarding your opinion on these locations.
My little girl is only 14 months old.
So, here is the vacation we are planning on taking when she turns:
8-A NC Lighthouse Tour
10-East Coast Caverns
11-A Dude Ranch in the Colorado Rockies
13-Hard Rock Hotels
14-Italy & Germany
15-England & Scotland
16-New Zealand & Australia
Alright, here is my explanation as well:
3- Disney Cruise-Free babysitting. I’ve just heard that they are amazing and I can’t wait to go.
4- Nickelodeon Resorts Punta Cana-The kids love Dora, Paw Patrol and some of their other shows and I just think that it would be good to go here while they still do. Probably not staying in the pineapple though. Mainly, because I’m not a huge fan of Sponge Bob.
5- Disney World-I’ve heard that ages 6 & 10 are the best time to take the kids to Disney World. So, when one of my daughters is 5 the other one will be 7 and hopefully both will still be really interested in princesses.
6- Disneyland-Same idea as above. Figure I’ve got to go here at least once. Plus, my Sister lives nearby.
7- Beaches Resorts: What’s better than a family-friendly resort. Especially one that is Sponsored by Sesame Street.
8- A NC Lighthouse Tour- Enough said.
9- Disney World- This time for the rides.
10- An East Coast Cavern Vacation- Because there are a ton of amazing caverns in our area.
11- Horseback Riding in the Colorado Rockies- Because this is the vacation my family took for 7 years in a row. I just want to take the girls once.
12- Utah Rocks- Because it’s still my favorite vacation and I’d love for the girls to experience it.
13- Hard Rock Hotels- They have a ton of cool things for teenagers to do. Can’t be much more of a teenager if you are 13 and 15.
14-18: Are not set in stone. They are just amazing trips that I would love to take. I figured taking the girls to different countries at this point in their life would be more meaningful.
Hope you like my list and my reasonings. Maybe I gave you an idea. Maybe I gave you lots of ideas.
Maybe you could give me some ideas?
My wife and I recently celebrated our eight-year wedding anniversary, and instead of the usual (and frankly, expected) exchange of gifts and a nice steak dinner downtown we decided to get away for the weekend. About thirty minutes away. The Umstead Hotel and Spa, located right off of I-40 in Cary, NC, had always been on our bucket list of places to experience. It’s well-known, highly rated, and the website makes it seem like the ultimate getaway no matter where you’re coming from.
There are many advantages of a staycation. We were able to maximize our time on the property since we did not have to travel out of town, and it relieved a little bit of the stress of leaving the kids knowing they were not far. And although The Umstead is luxury experience and is priced as such, we did not need to spend money on food while traveling or much money on gas.
We took advantage of one of their special packages. They include “The Umstead Experience” (the top of the line), and various other arrangements that takes advantage of the onsite spa and fine dining restaurant, Herons. We chose a package that included a one-night stay in a lake view room and an 80-minute couples massage in the on-site spa. Upon arriving on the property, I instantly knew it would be something special.
From the decor to the attentiveness of the staff, The Umstead was easily the nicest hotel I’ve ever stayed at. We lounged by the pool, where a wait staff ensured that we always had a bottle of water and adult beverage in our hand. The spa experience was the main attraction, and lived up to our expectations of being completely relaxed and transported to a place far away from the grind of our daily lives. And although we didn’t dine at the fine restaurant, Herons, we were more than satisfied with the offerings from the bar kitchen.
The takeaway: you don’t need to spend money on travel expenses to have a truly romantic and relaxing escape. During our all-to-brief stay at The Umstead, there were several times when I forgot I was in Cary. Indeed, I felt hours away from home even though I was right down the street.
Will Klinger- is a fellow Stay At-Home Dad and member of the Triangle Stay at Home Dads, the Chapel Hill/Carrboro Dads and SODU Parents Posse.
My wife and I are planning our next trip. I have been thinking lately about how much work it is Just to even start your trip planning, nonetheless actually plan What you are going to do when you get there. It really boils down to the 5 W's (Who, What, When, Where & Why?). I took out How, because the 5 W's & the 1 H doesn't sound as cool. I may also talk about them out of order as well, but here has been my thought process for our upcoming trip to Boone/Blowing Rock.
Why?: This may be the most obvious question. To get away. We are going to try to get away at least once a quarter. If not for my job, then also because its healthy and can be a lot of fun!
Who?: Not sure if anyone read it, however I did a blog article a little while ago that was all about traveling with friends. So, we wanted to make it happen. So, for this next trip we have reached out to some friends and we think its going to work out.
Where?: Already did the beach thing this summer with a family trip to Carolina Beach. Btw, if you would like a list of recommendations for Carolina Beach, I can send pre-done recommendations to you for $25. So, living where we are living, quick trips are often decided between beach and mountains. So, Mountains it is! Now, I've heard great things about Tweetsie Railroad. So, we are looking at using VRBO to rent a cabin near both Blowing Rock and Boone.
When?: I quickly did some research and found out that the weekend of October 7th is the best weekend to go to the Boone/Blowing Rock area for the Fall colors. Then, reached out to our friends and they are free too!
What?: As in what are we going to do when we get there. Well, that's my next research project and it could benefit you too. You can have this trip's pre-done research to, after its done. Also, remember that I custom plan trips for anyone, if they are interested. All I ask is a meeting and the ability to give you a quote for my time.
A friend recently told me, “We are stressed out right now, we need to travel.” This got me thinking about how important traveling is to me, my family and the people that I love or even like :). I whole heartedly agreed with him and it sounds like he was able to encourage the rest of his family as well. So, good for him.
This got me to thinking… “Why do I (specifically) travel?” First of all, I’m fortunate that I can travel. But, if I had to some up why I enjoy it so much I would probably narrow it down to these Top 3 reasons: 1. That’s it typically relaxing. 2. That you are creating new Memories and 3. That it’s an amazing break in the routine. Now, this probably comes as no surprise to you-but, maybe I can give you more ammunition to use with the rest of your family or whomever you are traveling with?
Last weekend, my family and I went to a friend’s lake house. It was so Chill. It was awesome to have such few worries in the world for once. I’ve noticed that despite how the trip goes, I am definitely way less stressed after a trip/vacation then I normally am. Not that I am typically high-strung, but there is something about a vacation that relaxes me.
You may have noticed from my website that I love taking pictures. Sure, a lot of people do. True. Many of the best memories that I have growing up are from our vacations. I know that most of my favorite pictures are those taken from vacations. Plus, we still talk about the trips we’ve taken as a couple/family.
I am a variety person, so taking a trip is also a great break in the routine. To quote Office Space, “Human beings were not meant to sit in little cubicles staring at computer screens all day.” I am always a little sad after a great trip, like the trip to the Lake House this past weekend, but I know that that means we are doing something right on our trips.
Hope that I can somehow help you with yours?